There comes a time when the prices for used cars at the auto auctions go the way of an exuberant bubble.
A small army of consumers get their tax refunds. The car lots wake up from their winter slumber, and values for vehicles go the netheregions of the human imagination.
I sell cars during this time, not buy them. In the last three months of every year I will usually buy a lot to avoid the tax time market prices. Sometimes as many as 12 vehicles in a day. But when tax season comes, I buy a chosen few and sell them by the dozen.
Then, after the buying frenzy begins to ever slowly ebb, there will be a welcome break in those hedonistic valuations. Where instead of winding up $1000 to $1500 behind the selling price, I wind up second to another bidder. Almost always to a guy who has been buying cars for a long time. Today was that day.
I told you that I would report back to the TTAC faithful when something new came up.
Well, for quite a few weeks there has been the usual distribution of dominance when it comes to high mileage cars that are curbed by their owners. 70% to 80% of the vehicles in the Top 25 of trade-ins mileage wise (out of 6000+ a week) were either Ford and Chevy trucks, Honda cars, or Toyota anything.
This week the streak is broken. Thanks to two Saturns which managed to cross the 400k mark.
My daughter has been driving the Saturn Astra recommended by Steve for a few months now and we can all say that it is a nice car — screwed together well, efficient and kinda sporty. I consider it to be a win. Except for a minor key issue. (Read More…)
There was the Cadillac of minivans. A different kind of company selling a different kind of car. A Swede with no compromises, and a Frenchman that went from strength to strength.
Daihatsus that were perhaps, a bit too modest, by skinny dipping their unknown name in a slogan-less lake. And then we had that crazy distant Yugoslavian cousin who bragged about a ‘road back to sanity’ while his neighbors blew up his plant.
Back in April, Sajeev and Steve found some time to reply to my letter where I posed the impossible question. As gearheads, we all want something fun, fast, efficient, and cheap (well, most of us want cheap). Much like a traction circle, all these needs are in competition and in order to make good on one you need to sacrifice another. The ultimate gearhead car, unfortunately, does not exist and it never will.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t good, affordable vehicles out there which are fun to drive while ticking most of the boxes. And, this time, I actually followed the advice of someone else and couldn’t be happier.
Well, better late than never. I did get my Saturn running again. Due to weather, parts delays and misdiagnosis I spent a lot more time and money than I planned or had to, but she does seem to be in good shape now. Although the timing chain was still in place and looked OK, I replaced it. I actually did the whole timing set replacement, which includes chain, crank sprocket, two cam sprockets, fixed guide, top guide, adjustable guide and chain tensioner.
I just bought a 2000 Saturn LW1 6 weeks ago. It has a L4 2.2 Liter engine with 200,000 miles on it. After 3 weeks out of the country I came back and started it up. Was a little rough then smoothed out. I just changed parking spots. Did this one more time. The third time starting it up it would not fire. No strange noises, just no running engine. I suspected bad ignition coil. I had just changed the spark plugs before my trip and they had about 50 miles on them. Ignition coil was fine at all four points using a ignition tester. I even put new plugs in again. Fuel rail has the specified 60 PSI. Theorizing that may the fuel injectors were shut down i tried starter spray in the air intake. The motor will not fire. A compression test with a gauge picked up at advance gave me less than 10 PSI on the two outer cylinders and about 24 on the two inner. The Haynes manual is very unhelpful and only states for compression specs. that the lowest compression cylinder value should be no less that 70% of the highest compression cylinder value.
I read on-line (http://www.saturnfans.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1781795) the same but that no cylinder should be less than 100 PSI. While cranking the engine there was some light smoke visible behind the engine above the exhaust manifold, but unable to determine the source.
My question is: are you aware of catastrophic head gasket failures on these engines? I am surprised that the engine will not fire at all even if the head gasket does have a problem. I have removed the valve cover and see that the timing chain is still there and working.
When I changed the plugs last month I applied anti-seize thread sealant to the plugs as instructed in the manual. I am now having wild imaginings that the anti-seize thread sealant got into the cylinders and impregnated the gasket and is somehow responsible for this catastrophic failure. I am going to tear into the engine tomorrow and try to replace the head gasket, because i need to get this car running again ASAP. I am being hopeful and unrealistically optimistic that I cold get some input/ thoughts from you before morning when I start this laborious task…
How many former Saturn buyers do you figure have come back to GM for their next car? What about consumers who last purchased a Pontiac? How about HUMMER? Since we’re not bound to a strict inverted pyramid around here, why don’t you think of an answer (in terms of percentage of customers retained) for each brand and then hit the jump to see how close you were.
USA Today reports that Tennessee’s 2 Republican Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and GOP congresswoman Marsha Blackburn received a rather frosty reception when they went to Spring Hill on Friday to toast GM bringing jobs back to the Ex-Saturn plant. They got booed and heckled. Why the frosty reception? Well, if you remember, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (along with the unnamed Congresswoman) were very vocal opponents against the bailout of GM and Chrysler. So, for 3 politicians to come back to their state and welcome back the very jobs which they would have been quite happy to see lost in the name of free market economics, probably stuck in the craw of the electorate. Namely, the UAW. (Read More…)
When GM went into bankruptcy, people had their money on Saturn going to die. The odds changed a bit when Roger Penske was in talks to buy Saturn. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Saturn was condemned to death by a bunch of executives in France. They vetoed Carlos Ghosn’s idea of supplying Penske with Renault cars for the Saturn brand. The death of Saturn meant that its manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, would join Saturn in the grave. And so it did, along with 800 people who lost their jobs. Suddenly, there is the proverbial glimmer of hope for those 800 workers and the economy of Spring Hill. (Read More…)
According to Reuters, GM has sent a letter to its dealers offering $7,000 for every new Saturn or Pontiac they can move to a rental or service fleet between now and January 4. The plan would essentially make dealers the first buyer of the remaining Pontiacs and Saturns, which would then be operated as fleet vehicles or be sold as low-mileage used cars. In any case, the single objective is clear: get those dead brands off the books at all costs. With 7,900 vehicles left at Pontiac as of the 14th of December and upward of 5,000 left at Saturn as of the beginning of the month, the cost to GM could easily approach $100m. But as they say in the advertisements, their loss is your gain…. as long as you’re interested in one of the G6s or Auras that dominate the dead-brand straggler inventory. Where’s Oprah when you need her?
GM’s sales fell by only two percent in November, showing that, unlike Chrysler, its sales are fairly well tied to the overall health of the market. All four of GM’s “core brands” posted month-on-month increases, with Buick up 14.8 percent, Cadillac up 10.3 percent, Chevrolet up 4.5 percent and GMC up 5.4 percent. Non-core brands including Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn combined for a 47.9 percent decline, to 11,755 units. Cars fell by 1.3 percent, while Trucks were down by 2.8 percent, leaving GM with total deliveries of 151,427 units.
The Saab deal’s death today marked the third attempted brand sale by GM to go down in flames since exiting bankruptcy. Whether the decision not to sell Opel was a good one remains to be seen (big time!), but at Saturn’s Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, which goes on standby this week, there’s less ambiguity about the situation. Meanwhile, Wild-Ass Rumors that Brilliance will rescue the Saturn brand have been chased by MSM scaremongering about a Chinese-owned GM, lending special irony to the fact that GM’s only brand-divestment success is the $150m Hummer-to-Tengzhong deal which is still pending approval by the Chinese government. Volvo nearly found a home in the Middle Kingdom with Geely, but things are crumbling and new bids are expected. Which means all of Detroit’s orphaned brands are still up in the air, at best. Long-term worries about the strength of the US market may be to blame, although the advanced state of the Hummer deal works against that theory (as Hummer’s viability lives and dies in the US market). Maybe the Chinese mandate for auto sector consolidation has potential Chinese buyers focusing on shoring up their domestic status. Or maybe the Chinese realize that brand equity must be earned, not bought. That appears to be the lesson to be learned from the rise of Hyundai and Kia. Fueled by mainstream design a true compact-to-luxury product range, and a relentless focus on product, they may well herald a decline in the importance of brand strategy. For an industry that practically invented the idea of selling a product without actually mentioning the product, this could be an interesting adjustment.
The long-rumored Chinese invasion may be coming sooner than we expected. Automotive World reports that Chinese automaker Brilliance has signed letters of intent with 36 US dealers in preparation for a US market launch. According to the report, Brilliance intends to launch products in the US as soon as it acquires 100 dealers. Apparently Brilliance’s US distributor is targeting former Saturn dealers, Roger Penske’s US network, Hummer dealers and the Galpin group. Rumors are even swirling that Brilliance could buy the Saturn name to re-brand its US-market products.